This is the full version of my piece about pregnancy that appeared here on Slate. I wanted to share the original, because I like the details, and Slate was nice enough to let me.
When I found out I was pregnant, I didn’t really want to tell my friends. We’d talked about babies, over wine and second draft feature articles at a non-fiction writers’ group, and everyone agreed that if you’re smart, you wait until you’re thirty-five.
“There’s too much to do before then!” said one of the women, summarizing.
I was twenty-six when I got pregnant, which meant I’d jumped the gun by almost a decade.
In a lot of different parts of the country, having a baby in your mid twenties is not a big deal; According to a 2009 report from the CDC, the average age of first time mothers in Texas, Oklahoma, Utah and nine other states New Yorkers rarely visit was recently twenty-two to twenty-three. But the average age of first time moms here in New York was twenty-six, and twenty-seven in New Jersey, where I grew up. When you account for factors like advanced education, the numbers climb. The Pew Research Center notes that 71% of first time mothers over thirty-five are college educated. Since I arrived in NYC, I don’t think I’ve even met anyone who didn’t go to college.
But on my Babycenter.com Due Date Club app, people are constantly starting threads with titles like “aNy othr teen moms on here???” And they get plenty of sympathetic answers. In New York City I only know one other woman my age who has a baby. She’d gone to Harvard and worked on Wall Street, but, she once confided in me in low tones, “I always wanted to be a mom.”
(my eternal hero– Robin McKinley. God, can this woman write a fantasy novel. source)
I have not always wanted to be a mom. (If I’ve always wanted to be anything it’s a famous fantasy novelist – dorky, I know). More immediately, I’ve wanted to get a college scholarship and then get a high GPA and then get into an Ivy League grad school and then have a sparkling career in the big city. I’m not sure about how sparkling my big city career has been (a guess: not particularly), but I made the rest of my goals happen.
Until now, the conversations I’ve had with my friends about babies have sounded something like this:
Glamorous, perfectly made-up Mara: “My mom is a nurse. She says it’s a myth that women are less fertile in their mid-thirties.”
(We all nod sagely.)
Julie, who has just been promoted and is managing ten people and attending star-studded work parties: “I need to spend at least another five years on my career. And anyway, my boss hates pregnant women.”
Stephanie, who works at a tech start-up: “Five years, definitely. That’s the right amount of time. You have to live your own life first.”
Everyone else: “Yes!”
I had been married for a couple years when I decided to go off birth control. By then, I was in therapy to try to cope with my career-related anxiety. At my preconception appointment (this is a thing! Although I may be the only one who has ever taken advantage of it), the doctor congratulated me for being so proactive and told me to go off the pill three months before I was even thinking about trying to conceive, to get the hormones out of my system and allow my body time to readjust. So I did. And then I panicked. “I have to finish my book,” I told my therapist. “Maybe I should wait another year? Six months? I think I rushed into this. I’m not ready.”
But my body was. Two hours after that therapy session, I peed on a stick, telling myself that I was stupid for even taking a test this soon. It said “YES” in very straightforward digital letters. I was already pregnant.